March 1, 2016
Did you see or hear Stevie Wonder present an award at the Grammy broadcast last week? He opens the envelope. Then with everyone on the edge of their seats to hear the winner of that category, he turns his opened envelope towards the audience, to show us all the braille, as he chants with a smile, “You can’t read it; you can’t read braille, ah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah!” And he takes another second to relish the moment when, he could access information, that the seeing-audience, could not. Stevie Wonder follows with the statement: “We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability.”
Does Stevie Wonder know that February was Jewish Disability Inclusion Awareness month? Perhaps not. Last month, designed to bring more awareness to disability inclusion in the Jewish community serves as a nice excuse to shed light on some challenges and opportunities we see in our spiritual life here at Rodeph Shalom. Read the rest of this entry »
May 2, 2015
It has been so exciting to see the expansion go up here at Rodeph Shalom. And now here we are, almost complete, with the May 17 Dedication happening this month! In last weekend’s Sunday seminar, our expansion chairperson Michael Hauptman taught that the master planning for the space began in 1992!
The meaning of our new addition is certainly not limited to bricks and mortar. The power of the renovation and expansion has been that, every step of the way, our leadership’s decisions have been mission-driven, fueled by our vision of the people and purpose who will fill its space. Not once has this congregation set out to create a museum; this is a center for living Judaism, where we honor the past, celebrate the present, and shape the future of Jewish life in Philadelphia.
And so it made sense when, about a year ago, a congregant suggested we consider a Jewish text, that might appear on the external Broad Street wall. Read the rest of this entry »
July 12, 2014
“You shall love the Eternal your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might. Set these words upon your heart.”
Why? Why does it say to set these words of love and of Torah, upon your heart? Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz teaches: we place the words of Torah upon our hearts so that they can lay there, wait there, for the day our heart breaks. And when it does break, those words of love sitting on our heart will fall right into the crack. That’s when we will really know Torah.
With fear comes distancing, the building of walls, the closing of hearts. But with openness—sometimes even just a crack, exposing our heart—comes the trust and faith that can allow for risk-taking. Read the rest of this entry »
June 1, 2014
This Tuesday evening-Wednesday, June 3-4, the counting of the Omer concludes and Shavuot arrives with our Shavuot Night of Study (7pm). For all of you who have been counting the Omer with us, or tuning in for some of the experience, this is a wonderful time to reflect. What has it meant to turn back to the liberation story of Pesach, to look forward to the revelation story of Shavuot, and to consider on each day, the present moment where you stand?
Judaism offers a great many opportunities to pay attention to the present moment. Some would say that such taking notice is the primary purpose for Jewish ritual. Ritual stops us in our tracks, helps us to notice the bread we are about to eat, the Sabbath about to arrive, the Ten Commandments we are about to embrace. Without ritual we are at risk of inhaling bread, moving into Friday evening, returning from work on June 3, without noticing.
As we celebrate the revelation at Mt. Sinai, consider Exodus 24:12: “Moses went up the mountain and he was there.” A Hasidic teacher notices: “This seems redundant: if Moses went up to the mountain, of course he would be there. However, this is proof that a person can exert tremendous effort to reach the top of a mountain, yet without being there. He may be standing on the mountain, but his head may be elsewhere. The main thing is not the ascent but being there, and only there, and not to be below at the same time.” Read the rest of this entry »
December 27, 2013
In his D’var Torah last Shabbat, Rabbi Kuhn challenged us to wrestle with the question: what is my purpose?
At the end of each book of Torah, there is a gap, a space. There is a legend that the white spaces in Torah are known as “white fire,” and the words of Torah are written in “black fire.” There is an extra amount of white fire between each book. So, last week we completed the study of the Book of Genesis, and tonight we begin anew with our study of the Book of Exodus. The extra space between Genesis and Exodus can represent a pause, a time for us to stop and think about our lives, and a chance to change, and to consider the meaning of our lives. Read the rest of this entry »
December 4, 2013
Check out our wonderful NFTY leader and youth-grouper, Audrey Fein’s D’var Torah! http://blogs.rj.org/nfty/2013/11/30/nfty-par-how-do-you-wrestle-with-your-judaism/
April 11, 2013
What can Judaism offer to the spiritual journey in recovery? The more I learn about Judaism and the more a learn about recovery, the clearer the answer becomes. Jewish wisdom enriches the spiritual journey of recovery in many of the same ways Judaism deepens any of our spiritual journeys.
In Jewish recovery author and teacher Rabbi Kerry Olitzky’s discussion with us at Rodeph Shalom last night, “The 12 Steps: A Message for Everyone,” he spoke about how the core foundations of Judaism, Torah, community and God, can support someone in recovery and can support every one of us in the struggles of life we face. I’d like to share some of my take-aways from Rabbi Olitzky’s teachings. Read the rest of this entry »
August 21, 2011
by Dan Seltzer, presented at August 19 Shabbat Service
With a sense of relief that comes with confessing, but also in the Socratic spirit of “the only thing I know is that I don’t know anything,” tonight I am going to talk about whether I believe God exists. If this topic makes you feel uncomfortable, I assure you there’s at least one other person in the room that feels the same way. Me. But first, I want to set the stage by describing a profound moment in my life. The summer after graduating college, some friends and I took a week-long canoe trip through the Allagash River Wilderness. Read the rest of this entry »